By Saeed Qureshi
Unlike Saudi Arabia and Iran Pakistan is not a religious but a nation state. It should be liberated from socio-religious taboos that hinder its progress and development like other developed nations around the world. It was Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who switched Pakistan then relatively a secular state towards a theocratic state. It was the unbelievable mind boggling somersault that came from a highly modernized, secular leader and proponent of democracy, human rights, equality and liberty.
The submission of ZAB under pressure from the religious right and theocratic forces to Islamize Pakistan was the most grievous debacle that plunged Pakistani into a morass of religious fanaticism that has ever been swelling and, of late, has assumed monstrous proportions. Thereafter, the society, the state and the institutions in Pakistan have remained subservient to the burgeoning religious militancy. The predominant role of Muslim crusaders in anti-Russian war in Afghanistan gave a kind of cart-blanche and brazen leeway to further push Pakistan into the lap of theocracy and unhindered mushrooming of religious dogmatism.
Mr. Bhutto spoke in favor of downtrodden sections of society and by taking shelter under Islamic socialism nationalized banks and industries. But these steps were taken at a time when socialism was on the decline for being a failed economic system. For the time being there was a bubble of economic boom and the people believed here was a liberator and redeemer who will take the country to new dazzling heights of glory and dignity.
But alas by two disastrous decisions, he watered down his achievements of liberalizing society, endearing Pakistan to the whole world particularly the Islamic bloc. One was to block Awami League from forming the government and also to spur Pakistan army and the morally bankrupt president for triggering civil war in East Pakistan culminating into dismemberment of Pakistan.
The second devastating decision was the amendment in the constitution that became a stepping stone for the clergy and religio-political parties with Jamaat-i-Islami in the lead to hold and spread their obscurantist agenda in Pakistan. He declared Ahmadis as non- non-Muslims. He banned liquor first in 1974 in the army mess halls. After the PNA movements for Nizam-i-Mustafa and against rigging of election in 1977, he again budged and as a political ploy, declared prohibition on the sale of alcohol and closure of liquor bars in Pakistan in April the same year. Ironically while the opposition forced ZAB to go back on his previous agenda of opening up society, they supported the advent of military rule under General Ziaul Haq in whose tenure Bhutto was hanged.
Ever-since those blighted, indiscreet and self-serving decision just to placate the religious parties and to stay in power became lasting millstones around the neck of Pakistan as well as the society. Pakistan has been paying a heavy price for Mr Bhutto’s egregious blunders made for the sake of personal aggrandizement. Had it been done for the sake of Islam one could take it as justified. But sacrificing his lofty agenda of building a new Pakistan on the altar of expediency and as a bargaining chip for hanging on to power was outright rank and loathsome opportunism.
His successor Gen. Ziaul Haq was hundreds times more focused on Islamizing Pakistan and one shudders to see in the hindsight how he forced his religious idealism by using naked and brute force and state power in crushing the opponents and those who spoke for fundamental rights and democracy. The Afghan anti-communism war gave an enormous fillip to his myopic agenda and what was missing in the Islamic impulse of Bhutto was irretrievably furthered and hammered by Ziaul Haq. The passion of Bhutto for Islamizing Pakistan was a spurious ploy while that of Zia was in right earnest, although both pushed Pakistan into a dreadful religious paradigm whose latest manifestation are Taliban and Al-Qaida.
It is indispensable that some visionary, courageous and progressive leader can reverse that retrogressive trend set in motion by Mr. Bhutto and later by Gen Ziaul Haq. Towards that goal, the following reforms are of utmost importance:
-The nomenclature of Islamic Republic of Pakistan should be changed to the Democratic Republic of Pakistan.
-Liquor and similar beverages should be allowed in Pakistan under state rules for sale and use. -That would prevent illegal and underground trade of liquor, forcing the people to use injurious and toxic drugs such as heroine and pot. The people were free to use these delights in undivided India and for several years after the birth of Pakistan. This fundamental right should be restored to them.
-The religious seminaries should be integrated with the main schooling system in Pakistan. The subject of Islamic teachings and jurisprudence can be made a part of the academic syllabus.
The number of mosques should be fixed for a certain number of residents in a locality.
-The Imams and clerics (who lead prayer) should be appointed by the local governments or administration. There should be some required qualifications and knowledge of Islam for every Imam to be appointed.
-Religious fanaticism and militancy should be curbed with full might by the state.
-The Shamanism (Peeri and Mureedi and fake sainthood) should be curbed at all costs. The worship and idolizing the dead as redeemers of human problems has to be banned.
-Feudalism in all forms should be eradicated.
-The rewards to the military officers by way of huge tracts of lands should be discontinued. That was a colonial practice to create loyalists in the army. The military top brass thus becoming landlords and big landholders try to protect this anti-human institution.
The sectarian outfits, the religious militancy, the groups involved in destabilizing Pakistan on their own or at the behest of the foreign inimical powers should be eliminated so that the people feel safe and resume their normal life.
-For trial of the terrorists, extortionists, killer gangs, saboteurs and arsonists now spread all over Pakistan making a mockery of the Law enforcement and legal system have to be killed on the spot or tried summarily to be executed through summary trials. When peace prevails the traditional legal and police system can be restored.
-The separatist movements and insurgents like the BLA should be handled the way Sri-Lankan government dealt with the Tamil Tigers. The armed skirmishes with BLA would not yield any desired results so soon. The army can launch a quick and brutal blitz for debilitating and stamping out this network that purportedly is fighting a proxy war for some foreign anti –Pakistan powers. If parleys can bring some kind of pacification, then that option may be tried before launching a full scale army operation. Same treatment should be meted out to the Taliban and those elements that want to turn Pakistan into medieval theocratic state.
-The FATA region should be declared a province of Pakistan like other provinces. The frontier regulations and special status in regard to FATA should be done away with. The FATA once joining as a part of Pakistan without being administered under special status would end it as the hub of countless criminal activities emanating from this region.